Poetry by Joanna Ingham
Man in white van tells me to fuck off back to London
I wonder if it’s my coat,
my arch suede boots,
how he knows I lost this place
of skies and pebbles,
this place that snags
like buoys caught in the nets.
I am edging the beach,
the marsh road, Sizewell
mushrooming white ahead
and I want to say
no, this is mine too, was.
I want to tell him
I dream in sea shades still,
hear the shingle undertow
a hundred miles inland.
Nuclear medicine scan
For twenty-four hours afterwards
I am untouchable. It is forbidden
to touch another’s mutable
body. I lie alone in a wide bed
and think of the narrow one
in the scanner room, my kidneys
glowing gold on the screen
like twin cities at night
when seen from space, full
of hidden business, cleaners
still at work in the offices,
pubs letting out into the streets.
My ureters are motorways
lit by the stream of car lamps.
I hope there are not too many
accidents, too many people crying
in apartment blocks, knifings
in alleyways. I hope that things
are as they should be. The isotopes
chug like trains out of town –
tomorrow they will be gone
and the lights will go out one
by one, but not because it’s the end.
The inhabitants will be left
with all their longings,
to stroke each other softly in the dark.
Ovariotomy for large cystoadenoma ovarii
a short film in the Wellcome Collection
We only see the woman for a few seconds at the very end,
lying in her hospital bed in 1933, arms neat across the sheets.
She looks at the camera without expression, hair bobbed
as if she’d had a chance to comb it when she came round.
Before this she has been an abdomen, framed from throat
to groin, small breasts, racks of ribs, belly of course, distended
and diseased. The movie is silent but instead of men fighting
comically on top of trains, there are only hands in rubber gloves,
the intertitles in an attractive font explaining things like
the abdominal incision is para-median or after the tumour
is exposed, the hand is introduced or a fluctuant area is selected
and Lawson Tait’s Trocar is inserted to drain the loculus.
Maybe it’s easier to watch like this, in black and white.
Sir Harold Beckwith is unrushed, cutting, clamping,
stitching, pointing so that we might more readily notice
the fallopian tube, very much elongated, the tri-radiate pedicle.
The longest part is the closing up, like a flower opening
in reverse time-lapse, the layers of membrane and skin
rebudding themselves until the wound is a puckered curve
like a mouth with no words. Then there’s the cyst itself,
beached on a metal tray like some revolting white octopus.
Sir Harold slices it apart, stands back a little to let the contents
flood out over the edge of the table, lifts strands of sticky mucin
for us to fully appreciate what he has been dealing with.